Sherlock Holmes: “The Adventure of the Red Circle”

Summary: A landlady asks Sherlock to help her figure out her renter, who paid a huge amount to rent the room and has never come out. Sherlock takes the case because it is interesting–purely as “education” for himself. He determines that the person living in the room is different than the one who originally rented it. When they spy on the door, they discover that a woman is living there. She is being communicated to through the “agony column” in the newspaper. It turns out she and her husband were on the run from a gang. Her husband managed to kill their pursuer just as Sherlock and the police closed in on them.

Sherlock Rating: 4.5 magnifying glasses. It was exciting and interesting. I really enjoyed this one.

Mystery Story Convention: Secret codes in the newspaper–I’d never heard of an “agony column” before. I guess it compares to Twitter today?



Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge (2)

Summary: Sherlock and Watson begin their investigation, though the local constable seems to have it well in hand–impressing even Sherlock with his methods. Sherlock hones in on the mansion of “Mr. Henderson.” Suspecting that his governess was the one who had sent the letter that had gotten the man killed. He believes she is being held captive. This turns out to be true, and Sherlock’s man saves her as Mr. Henderson tries to flee. It turns out that the local constable was on the same trail (for once), and the only thing of value Sherlock added to the investigation was that he was able to save the woman. The woman explains that Mr. Henderson was actually the Tiger of San Pedro, a former cruel leader of San Pedro who had had her husband and many others killed. There was a network of people plotting to get justice, and she and the murdered man were among them. Though the Tiger got away this time, he eventually is killed.

Sherlock Rating: This ended up being shorter than I expected. The chapter thing had thrown me off. So I give this mystery/adventure a 2.5. It was interesting, but Sherlock really didn’t have much to do. And they promised a rescue mission and then immediately took it away when the woman escapes on her own.

Mystery Story Convention: Foreign war criminal in hiding with a secret group trying to kill him. This is something that has come up before. I wonder if any of my neighbors are secret foreign war criminals…

Sherlock Holmes: His Last Bow (1)

Summary: Another longer story. Sherlock is bored so he takes a case from Mr. Eccles, who was visiting a new friend (Mr. Garcia, a Spaniard) overnight, but found that the man and his whole staff had disappeared in the morning. The police find Mr. Eccles to get a statement from him, since the man had been found murdered. Sherlock decides that Garcia had made friends with Eccles to get a reliable English alibi for something he wanted to do having to do with a woman. It clearly didn’t work out as planned. Now Sherlock is going to the location it happened.

Sherlock Rating: 3 bows, as in bowing in appreciation, not archery or hair ribbons, unless I’m reading the title of this thing wrong. Anyway, this is because it seemed to be a pretty good build up, though nothing too interesting or exciting happened.

Mystery Story Convention: The first suspect (almost) never is guilty. Unless they dismiss that first guy so quickly you forget about him, but I’m pretty sure in this case, this rule is followed.

Hans Christian Anderson: “The Snow Queen”

I took a break from Sherlock to read “The Snow Queen.” I had actually never heard of it until I started hearing about the Disney movie, Frozen. Only after starting it did I realize I’d just read a middle grade retelling of it, Breadcrumbs, by Annie Ursu. Since I am a preschool teacher and will soon be hearing all about the Disney version, I figured I should be familiar with the real version, and I’d heard it was really good.

Summary: Gerda and Kai were best friends until a shard from a magic mirror fell into Kai’s eye and went to his heart, which made him see the world in a more jaded and adult way (seeing the negative in everything). He abandons his friend and goes with the Snow Queen, whose kisses numb him and make him forget his friends and family. Gerda sets out to look for him and ends up on a magical adventure. She almost is adopted by a sorceress with a garden of flowers that tell strange tales, and then she is captured by robbers, and the best character in the book, the robber girl, who has a collection of animals she keeps to play with (like Elmira in Animaniacs) decides to help her and takes her to the queen’s castle on her reindeer with some stops at some magical old ladies’ houses. She finds Kai on a lake of ice and saves him. They go home.

As fairy tales go it was good. (Fairy tales generally are told with the stock hero representing all that’s good and pure, with a villain who is completely evil, who meets an appropriate gruesome end (though there are more tragic variations, of course), so the written versions I’ve read have never seemed that good to me, as stories go. They tend to just tell the story and leave all the details, such as character development.) This story actually had some character development, and it dealt with loss of innocence in a fairly innocent way. It still jumped around from strange event to strange event, as fairy tales do, but I did enjoy it.

Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (2:7)

Summary: In the conclusion of this tale (finally), McMurdo sets a trap for this detective they’re worried about and has all the most lethal members of the Scowrers lie in wait. But then he reveals that he is actually the detective they had been so worried about and that he knows all their secrets and they are all under arrest. They serve their time, and from then on McMurdo/Birdy Edwards has to go into hiding. Eventually he goes overseas to get away, but the Scowrers just hire Moriarty to help, and that has sealed his fate. After some time passes, Sherlock and Watson hear that he had fallen overboard around Cape Town and was lost at sea.

Sherlock Rating: I give the story as a whole just 2.5 magnifying glasses. I was disappointed that Moriarty, and Sherlock, for that matter, just played a marginal role. And I still don’t care for story tangents like the one about the freemasons, McMurdo, etc.

Mystery Story Convention: The twist ending. Though I was pretty sure McMurdo would turn out to be the guy that had faked his death to get away from “the bodymaster” and “the Valley of Fear,” and I was pretty sure he’d secretly prevented some murders, like warning the guy before he blew up the house, I didn’t guess that he was actually the detective, and I appreciate twist endings like that.

Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (2:5-6)

Summary: McMurdo’s girlfriend wants him to leave the valley with her, and he says they will within a year. He’s adapting well. Most like him, some hate him. They have to do favors for other “gang/freemason” clans, such as let two assassins stay with them. Then everything heats up for them when they hear the secret that Morris the detective is on their case. McMurdo seriously plans to escape now.

Mystery/Western Story Convention: The appearance of the good guy in town who will shake things up. I expect a duel at high noon soon.

Sherlock Holmes: The Valley of Fear (2:4)

Summary: A fellow lodge member who had also originated from out of town secretly warned McMurdo of the terrible nature of this lodge of Freemen. McMurdo told him he was weak but promised not to speak of their meeting to anyone, which is good, because the Bodymaster comes to question him soon after. McMurdo quickly satisfies his concerns and promises not to associate too much with the man. As the interview finishes up, the police come to arrest McMurdo for his part in the beating of that newspaper editor. They go to trial, but the case is quickly thrown out because the Bodymaster and fellow lodge members give them all alibis, and there is no real evidence against them.

Mystery/Western Story Conventions: (I skipped the Sherlock rating–I’ll just rate this thing as a whole when it’s done–spoiler alert: it won’t be a very high score) So this convention is the trial that is a farce–no one really expected anyone to be convicted. They know the system is corrupt, but the good guys are going through the motions to try to make a point.